So You’re Retired And Want a Dog? Experts Advise Against These 5 Breeds
Dogs can be amazing companions for seniors in later life, but only some types of dogs are right for the retiree lifestyle. As we journey through life, our pace may gently shift, leading to a natural and gradual decrease in energy and activity levels, while also becoming more mindful of our well-being and susceptibility to injuries. For this reason, large and highly active dog breeds can be risky for seniors to own, and retirees in their golden years often can’t keep up with the demands of these breeds.
When a senior can find the right dog for their lifestyle, the benefits can be pretty incredible. “Some of the health benefits of having a pet include: decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, decreased feelings of loneliness and increased opportunities for socialization,” says Pets for the Elderly, an organization that offers financial assistance to senior citizens who adopt animals through local shelter programs.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s all backed by research—having a pet is good for you, according to science!
As beneficial as having the right dog can be for a senior, having the wrong dog can be detrimental. Here, we’ll go through key considerations for seniors who want a dog, the worst dog breeds for people in their golden years, and the best dog breeds for seniors and retirees.
5 Types of Dogs Senior Citizens Should Avoid
Not only is owning the wrong dog breed bad for the human, but it’s also bad for the dog. When senior citizens buy or are gifted inappropriate dog breeds, both suffer the consequences. Dogs in these situations often are under-stimulated, under-exercised, and therefore suffer from behavioral issues that can make them even less appropriate for their retired owner.
Here are five dog breeds that are too high-maintenance for the retiree’s life.
1. German Shepherds
German Shepherds are alert, high-energy, protective dogs that require extensive training and hours of daily exercise, rough play, and mental stimulation. Extremely strong and known to be reactive when not properly trained, German Shepherds are not a good choice for seniors.
2. Labrador Retrievers
Though well-trained Retrievers make amazing companions and service dogs, Labrador Retrievers as pets can be extremely high-energy, and may accidentally bowl their senior citizens over while experiencing the zoomies.
3. Australian Shepherds
Easily bored with extraordinarily high energy levels, Australian Shepherds need an active lifestyle—they are a herding breed, after all, and were bred for life on a farm. Sometimes prone to anxiety and quick to take out frustration with redirected aggression, this is not an appropriate breed for a senior.
4. Jack Russell Terriers
Jack Russells are easily one of the most high-energy terrier breeds, and they’re known to be mouthy, alert, and reactive. These little dogs are fierce and not only require lots of exercise but also are not interested in being lap dogs.
5. Puppies, Regardless of Breed
Adopting a puppy, while an exciting prospect, may not be the ideal choice for many senior citizens, primarily due to the high energy levels and intensive care requirements of young dogs. Puppies, with their boundless energy and enthusiasm, require constant attention, regular training, and ample exercise to keep them healthy and well-behaved. This can be quite demanding for seniors who may have limited mobility or energy themselves. Additionally, the process of training a puppy to follow commands, housebreaking, and socializing them can be time-consuming and physically taxing, which might be challenging for older adults.
Moreover, the long-term commitment required when adopting a puppy is another crucial factor to consider. Puppies can live for over a decade, and as they grow, their needs and health issues evolve, which might not align with the future lifestyle or health situation of a senior citizen. The physical and financial responsibilities of caring for a dog throughout its life, including veterinary visits, grooming, and other care needs, can become increasingly difficult as both the pet and owner age. Therefore, for senior citizens, adopting an older, more low-key dog that matches their lifestyle and physical capabilities might be a more suitable and fulfilling option.
What Happens When The Dog Outlives The Human?
“My cousin gave my 85-year-old aunt a brand new puppy,” said Lorna Ladd reflecting on how cute the puppy was and how excited her Aunt was. However, Buttercup was never properly trained because the 85 year old was not comfortable taking her out for walks. So the dog went to the bathroom where she could.
“Sadly, my aunt had a stroke at age 91, and passed at age 92. Guess who ended up with Buttercup? Me,” Lorna said. Seniors with dogs may want to think about succession plans to ensure their pet is looked after. Here’s How to Make Sure They’re Cared for Even When You’re Gone
Instead of giving someone in their 70s or 80s a puppy, consider a senior dog. See options below.
What To Consider When Choosing a Dog for a Senior
If you are over 65 and looking for a dog or are helping a senior citizen choose a dog breed, keep these three major considerations in mind. Remember that more than one factor needs to be right to justify getting a dog, and you’ll need to imagine the whole picture to set yourself or your loved one up for success with their new canine best friend.
1. Energy Levels
Everyone is different, and some seniors have boundless energy and remain active well into their retirement. This said, it’s important to remember that your energy levels could change—and drastically—in just a few years. A high-energy dog will remain a high-energy dog until they are themselves a senior, and will need that daily exercise and mental stimulation even if you cannot provide it.
High-energy dogs are also more likely to accidentally injure their owner and have a greater chance of becoming reactive as a result of under-stimulation.
A breed known for lower energy levels and exercise requirements or a senior dog are both good options for matching a retiree’s energy. Puppies are usually a bad choice since younger dogs have higher energy levels than adults and seniors.
Large and extra-large dogs are not a good choice for seniors, especially if they are experiencing any issues with balance. Large dogs can injure people who are in their prime, and owning a large breed requires specific skills and training. For retirees, large dogs can overrun their lives, make it dangerous to go for walks, and even knock them over accidentally.
Of course, there are exceptions. Some large breeds are known for being very gentle, while others are high-energy and seem to not know their strength. Size is a factor to consider when combined with other factors like the senior’s experience with dogs, the breed of dog, whether they live independently, and so on.
Unfortunately, where the dog will go once their senior human passes on is also an important factor to consider.
“My cousin bought my 83-year-old aunt a puppy. She was trying to do something nice so my aunt wouldn’t feel alone in the house and have something to keep her company,” said pet expert Lorna Ladd in an interview. “Unfortunately, my aunt had a stroke at age 91, and none of her kids could take the dog—who was now a senior. So guess who it ended up with? Me!”
Puppies aren’t just extra work for the senior you give them to—they also live 10–16 years. If someone is ready, willing, and able to take responsibility for the dog should their owner pass away, and all the other circumstances are right by all means, get a puppy. But, if there’s any chance your beloved retiree might outlive their dog, please consider choosing an adult or senior pup instead.
5 Best Dog Breeds for Seniors
Each of these dog breeds is relatively low-energy, known to be manageable on walks, and considered a “companion” breed. These dogs love to spend time with their humans and are less concerned with chasing toys, barking, or going on long hikes.
We’ve divided the best dog breeds for seniors of 65 into three categories to help you find the perfect breed for you. Let’s get started with the best small dog breeds for seniors, but we promise we’ve also included our picks for the best large dogs for seniors.
Known for their sweet, gentle personalities, the tiny Maltese is the perfect lap dog for a senior citizen who is looking for a companion. Extremely loving, Maltese bond tightly to their humans and would rather spend all day by their sides than doing anything else. Incidentally, the Maltese is also one of the best non-shedding dogs for seniors.
2. Shih Tzus
The Shih Tzu is a lively, goofy little dog that is always trying to brighten the mood, but also requires fairly little exercise. A good option for seniors in apartments or assisted living facilities where dogs are allowed, Shih Tzus are a ton of fun and wonderful friendly little dogs. Like Maltese, Shih Tzus are low-shedding dogs.
Funny, cuddly, and attentive, the Pug is a wonderful choice for a senior who wants a dog with lots of personality. Sometimes stubborn and often vocal, Pugs are best for seniors living independently, but otherwise check all the boxes.
Looking for a bigger dog? When it comes to the best dogs for seniors AARP and other senior living and advocacy groups all name the Greyhound on their lists! Sometimes nicknamed the “40 mile-per-hour couch potato” the Greyhound is a total snuggle bug with a gentle nature, and relatively low exercise needs.
Beagles can be rambunctious in their youth, but adult and senior Beagles are notorious for their love of a soft spot to nap and snack in front of the TV! Easy-going and happy to do the same thing each day, Beagles are also a slightly smaller “medium” breed.
6. Senior Dogs
Regardless of breed, a senior dog is always a fantastic choice for a senior human! Senior dogs have a harder time getting adopted and need companionship just as much as retirees do. If you think a senior pooch might be right for you or your loved one, check out one of the many senior dog rescue groups and sanctuaries that pair dogs in their golden years with forever families.
Adopting A Senior Dog, Risk Free
For senior citizens seeking companionship in their golden years, organizations like the Frosted Faces Foundation offer a heartwarming solution that bypasses many of the common obstacles associated with pet ownership. These groups specialize in rescuing and caring for senior dogs, providing them with a second chance at life. By matching these experienced and often overlooked canines with individuals aged 65 and older, they create harmonious partnerships based on mutual understanding and shared life stages. This unique approach not only gives senior dogs a loving home but also enriches the lives of senior citizens with the joy and companionship of a loyal pet.
One of the most significant benefits of adopting through such organizations is the commitment to the well-being of both the pet and the owner. Understanding the concerns that come with older age, these groups offer a commitment that lasts until the passing of the pet, ensuring a stable and lasting bond. Additionally, to alleviate the financial burden of pet healthcare, they provide free medical coverage at facilities like the FFF Veterinary Hospital. This comprehensive support system allows senior citizens to experience the joys of pet ownership without the stress of medical expenses, making the journey of companionship with their four-legged friends as comfortable and worry-free as possible.
Senior For Senior Programs
- Frosted Faces Foundation – Their Seniors for Seniors program offers senior dogs to senior humans, providing benefits such as free medical coverage at FFF Veterinary Hospital. Frosted Faces Foundation
- North Shore Animal League – Their Seniors For Seniors® program helps bring pets and companions into homes of senior citizens. North Shore Animal League
- Pets for the Elderly Foundation – This organization helps pay the fees to participating animal shelters throughout the United States for senior citizens aged 60 and over. Pets for the Elderly
- Town of Oyster Bay Animal Shelter – Offers a “Seniors for Seniors” Pet Adoption Program. Town of Oyster Bay Animal Shelter
- Paws Crossed Animal Rescue – Their Seniors for Seniors Adoption Program brings senior orphaned pets to loving homes. Paws Crossed Animal Rescue
- Pet Helpers – The Seniors for Seniors Adoption Program is designed to help senior humans rediscover the joys of having a cat or dog in their lives. Pet Helpers
- Finger Lakes SPCA – Their Silver Paws Program makes a special effort to bring senior pets and senior people together, waiving adoption fees for senior humans 55 and up. Finger Lakes SPCA
- Pets for the Elderly – They have a list of participating shelters across various states. Participating Animal Shelters – Pets for the Elderly
- Warwick Valley Humane Society – Offers a Senior for Seniors program. Warwick Valley Humane Society
- Almost Home Dog Rescue of Ohio – Their Senior-to-Senior (S2S) Program matches senior citizens with senior dogs through permanent fostering homes. Almost Home Dog Rescue of Ohio
- Helping Paws Animal Shelter – Their Senior to Senior program places senior cats and dogs (7 years and older) with senior citizens (65 years and older). Helping Paws Animal Shelter
- Furry Friends Rescue – Their Seniors for Seniors adoption program helps match senior dogs with senior citizens, offering reduced adoption fees for older dogs. Furry Friends Rescue
- Paws Across Pittsburgh – The Senior Paws for Seniors adoption program is designed to help senior humans in Western PA rediscover the joys of having a cat or dog. Paws Across Pittsburgh
- LA Animal Services’ Seniors for Seniors – This program matches senior companion animals (seven years and older) from Los Angeles Animal Shelters with senior adults. LA Animal Services’ Seniors for Seniors
- Peace of Mind Dog Rescue – Located on California’s Central Coast, they are a resource and advocate for senior dogs and senior people, finding loving homes for dogs whose guardians can no longer care for them. Peace of Mind Dog Rescue
- Paws Crossed Animal Rescue’s Senior for Seniors Adoption Program – This program in New York is designed for adopters that are 70 or older, focusing on pets over 7 years old. Paws Crossed Animal Rescue
- Hudson Valley SPCA Seniors Program – They offer a seniors pet program where matchmakers find the perfect senior pet for your lifestyle, with no adoption fee for senior pets. Hudson Valley SPCA Seniors Program
- Saratoga County Animal Shelter’s Senior to Senior Program – This program facilitates the adoption of senior pets by senior citizens, with reduced fees for dogs and free adoptions for cats. Saratoga County Animal Shelter
- Big Dog Ranch Rescue’s Seniors for Seniors Program – This program specifically matches senior citizens with senior rescue dogs, providing companionship for both. Big Dog Ranch Rescue
- Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando’s Seniors for Seniors Program – They offer a program that encourages the adoption of senior pets by senior citizens, fostering a supportive adoption process. Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando
- Humane Society of Manatee County’s Senior for Seniors Program – This program is designed to match senior pets with senior citizens, enhancing the lives of both. Humane Society of Manatee County
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